DEVELOPMENTS by Kathleen Conlon


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In the touching A Forgotten Season (1981), Conlon highlighted the English-childhood epiphanies of little Veronica Bell against the grimy nastiness of her wretched neighbors, the Spensers; here, less successfully, Veronica and the Spensers are whisked through three decades of multi-voiced narratives about interlocking lives. Leonora Spenser--seen in the previous book as a spiteful witch to slimy husband Ronald and scabrous Ronnie (Ronald's son by a prostitute) but a worshipper of bratty, pretty daughter Margaret Rose--is now given some background: her long spinsterhood taking care of Mummy; her courtship by shy, older Ronald; Ronald's disappointing, submissive performance as a lover; the arrival of ugly, unwanted child Ronnie. Focus then shifts to the now-grownup Ronnie, an Army corporal, who--after his life of orphanages, Leonora cruelty, and homelessness--finds one dear and true love in Irish Sally, who'll be killed on a visit home, taking Ronnie's desperate hopes with her. (Doomed, Ronnie will tend his raving, widowed step-mother when she's dying of cancer--simply because he's needed--and will himself die in the military.) And there are the contrasting lives of the two girls: Margaret Rose, who, predictably, whips a husband and three children into shape; and goody-goody Veronica, who suffers unwed stillbirth, disastrous marriage, misconceptions of romance galore. . . until finding some realism with wise Alistair at age 37. Some brightly awful scenes along the way--but this time Conlon seems to have crowded her material badly, with little scope or depth, with too many big moments hurrying by in a general cloud of drear.

Pub Date: April 20th, 1982
Publisher: St. Martin's